Last week I managed to escape the mad house I call home to do the food shopping on my own – sounds wonderful right?
I decided to face the food shop after ‘one of those days’; the children were driving me mad, it was that week that comes around every month for us ladies, I was hungry and I hadn’t written a list… this was a recipe for disaster.
My budget went straight out the window leaving me with a shopping bill of £95 for that week. £95!!! I never spend that much and it certainly did not help the mood I was in! My usual bill is around £65 to £70 a week so this was a big blow for me.
Whereas today I blew myself right out the water…my shopping bill for the week came in at £60.22. A whole weeks shopping, for 6 people, including; breakfast, lunch, dinner, treats, toiletries and cat food! £60.22!
Now before I go on to tell you how I achieve this most weeks I would like to point out that I am no food expert, nutritionist or dietician, nor do I claim to feed my children the best food in the business, but we certainly don't live on cr*p, I am just a mum of 4 doing her best to feed her family a relatively good diet on a budget. We are not the healthiest but by no means are we unhealthy. To be fair my children eat pretty good, I mean, we all know how fussy kids can be right?
This is isn’t a ‘feed your kids a healthy, home-cooked, well balanced meal every-day after school’ blog but more of a ‘you can feed a big family, even a little family, on a budget without eating rubbish (all the time)’ kind of blog. I don’t put pressure on them to always choose the healthy option, nor do I put pressure on myself to always give them healthy options. Let’s face it who does that ALL the time especially when they are running a tight ship?
So let’s get to it, here are my tips…
I always make a meal plan. When I first started doing this it took me ages but now I have been doing it for around 4 years it is like second nature to me. In fact it throws me out when I don’t have a meal plan. You just need to persevere – it pays off trust me!
It takes a while at first because you have to really think about the week ahead. Will you need a meal every day or do you other plans that week? And, what do you already have in your cupboards?
If you’re stuck for ideas go online for some inspiration, especially if you’re board of the same old same old all time. The internet has a wealth of information and ideas that you can adapt to suit.
2)Write a list
Once you have your meal plan write a list of what you need. Check your cupboards for the ingredients of your chosen meals and any other daily essentials then just write down what you don’t already have.
Your shopping list isn’t just for food – be sure to include toiletries and such like. Again, check your bathroom cabinets to be certain of what it is you need.
Then most importantly STICK to the list – don’t deviate!
I do my best to stick to recommended portion sizes for example I don’t throw the rest of the pasta in because there’s only a little bit left in the bag, or instead of adding the last chicken breast into your dish and forcing yourself (or encouraging the kids) to eat up, just cook it separately and use it for sandwiches for the next couple of days’ lunch.
This saves you over eating as well as over buying thus over spending.
4)Fresh or Frozen
To buy fresh veg or frozen veg that is the question…
This is a tricky one. As there are 6 of us we could get through a lot of veg, for example we can use a whole broccoli in one meal so buying fresh isn’t always the cheapest option. For day to day, after school, in-a-hurry type meals I tend to use frozen. That said if we have a roast dinner on a Sunday frozen veg wouldn’t be sufficient enough therefore, we would buy fresh. Depending on our meal plans and what we having going on there are weeks when we only use frozen.
I was speaking to someone the other day that lives on her own with her young son – she said buying veg is a pain in the derriere for her as it tends to go off before they have had a chance to eat it all. In this case I recommend frozen veg. I’ll use broccoli again as an example; she can simply grab the exact amount she needs and not worry that what is left will go off nor will she need to buy it every time she does the shopping.
5)Do not shop when you are hungry
Ok, so sometimes this can’t be avoided but if you end up shopping when hungry, without a list and no idea of what meals you want for the week ahead, well the chances are you will go over budget! Everything around you will appeal because you’re hungry and you’ll get suckered into buying it.
6)Get the kids involved
Get the kids involved in the meal planning. I often ask mine what they fancy. Are there any little treats they would like this week? Do they fancy different snacks, different fruit, different cereal, different smelling hand-soap or bubble-bath? Getting them involved and giving them a little responsibility makes them feel more important and it gives them their place within the family.
You can extend their involvement to the cooking as well. Whether it’s a quick meal you’re chucking in the oven or a home-cooked gem you’re conjuring up, get the kids involved. They love to help…well mine do anyway. I have found they try more things when I get them involved in the prepping and cooking because, well, they cooked it!
Tips 1 and 2 are my most important, never-do-the-food-shop-without-them, tips. Failure to do so results in a massive overspend on junk food and general stuff that you just don’t need, as I learnt last week!!
This week I stuck to ALL of my tips and as I mentioned just now, today’s bill came in nicely under budget at just £60.22. I really find the above helps me stick to my very low, £65 for a family of 6 budget, and I hope it helps you too.
I have sample meal plans, shopping lists & lunch box ideas for pre-schoolers (my school kids have school dinners) that give you an idea of what exactly I feed my brood, so if you would like more information on how I feed my family of 6 on a budget and how you could too, I would love to hear from you...Just comment below 🙂
Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog for FREE and receive notifications of new blog posts.
One day he makes me furious, with his Jekyll and Hyde like behaviours. The next I'm crying out of shear proudness!
My son is a ballet dancer…yes my SON.
Every time music came on he would dance instantaneously and with my dancers eye I could see straight away he had ‘something’. I used to be a ballet and tap dancer, I performed in shows and competitions, I had the perfect build for a ballerina and I was good at it. I remember my teacher practically throwing the letter back at my mum that she had written explaining I would be leaving. She said “if you think I’m going to let Emma just walk out of here you’ve got another thing coming”. The thing is I was adamant I wasn’t going back, as a teenager my social life seemed so much more interesting and in my mums words ‘you can take a horse to water, you can’t make it drink’…12 years on and I will hold my hands up and say that was quite possibly the biggest mistake of my life!
But I digress…Sparks and I talked on many occasions and agreed that Slim should start dancing and should do so before he starts school. We didn’t want peer pressure or the thoughts of others to put him off. So I found a local dance school and enrolled him in a street dance class.
What a disaster!
He cried and cried and cried a bit more!! I was gutted for him because he had been so excited but it clearly wasn’t for him.
Whilst we were there, my toddler, Daisy, notices the little girls in pink tutus going into their ballet class and she was desperate to get in on the action. So sure enough the next week we went along and she got involved. She wasn’t overly enthusiastic but she wanted to go and wanted all the gear; tutu, ballet shoes, and so on.
Over the weeks the teacher noticed Slim joining in at the back of the class. Completely on his own with no encouragement from me. If anything, knowing how explosive and unpredictable he can be, I just wanted him to sit down and be quiet but the teacher asked him to come over and join in.
I was blown away!
He was great and he clearly loved it. The teacher was stunned at his ability and she was completely made up as he then became her first male ballet dancer.
Upon arriving home that day I was excited to tell Sparks that our boy had found his dancing love, ballet. I was shocked at the response! Sparks did not like it. His son, a ballet dancer?! His thoughts were never expressed to Slim nor did we have this conversation in front of him but I was gobsmacked at his reaction. I continued to take Slim and explained his dads reaction to the teacher who advised I asked Sparks to come along one lesson to see Slim dance for himself. You see Sparks also thought I was trying to relive my dream through our son. As he hadn't seen him dance, he didn't realise his amazing natural ability.
Eventually, I persuaded Sparks to come along to a lesson and in that one hour his opinion was changed forever!
What a transformation; from that day on he tells anyone who will listen that his boy is ballet dancer.
Slim and Daisy were given the chance to perform in a show at the Kings Theatre. Something I was given the chance to do in my pre-teen years, but this was around the time I gave it all up so I never made it on this stage. I was so excited for them both – Sparks & I were so proud! Our babies were up on stage!
Slim kept asking when it was his turn again – he loved it! It seems he was born to perform.
During the show they saw the other types of dance on offer and so both started tap as well. Awww their little tap shoes...too cute!
After a while Daisy stopped participating in both the ballet and tap classes. So after weeks of perseverance we decided to take her out; her lack of focus was distracting Slim and other class members as well and if I'm honest I think she was just there for pink tutu anyway. The novelty soon wore off!
Prior to the show, rightly or wrongly, due to the stigma attached (and what with his dads reaction) I kept it relatively quiet that Slim had started a ballet class. Slowly I told few members of the family but I certainly didn't shout about it; then one day his teacher told me “he really is talented at it! I don’t have any other 3 year olds that are that naturally gifted with the ballet”.
And just moments before that I had a lady whom I’d never met before pull me aside to tell me “he’s bloody brilliant”.
I can’t even to begin to explain how I felt at this point. I wanted to shout from the roof tops that my son was a ballet dancer. I left that day with my head held incredibly high, feeling extremely proud of him yet ever so ashamed of myself…
I can’t believe that I was worried what people might think of us or think of my boy being a ballet dancer. I was hiding the very things that define him, I was doing exactly what I feared his class mates to do when he started school;
What president is this setting?
What was it teaching him?
Nothing other than to be ashamed of yourself for doing something you love... that was NOT the lesson I wanted to teach.
Well you know what? I couldn't give a monkey’s toss what anybody thinks.
He enjoys it, he's fantastic at it and I will be actively encouraging him and openly talking about his achievements'. Proud is an understatement!
Lots of people waking up this morning dreading the day ahead; this used to be me…
Urgh Monday morning!
Lots of people HAVE to face the dreaded 9-5 on a Monday. Lots WANT/NEED to for their sanity. I can totally relate to this. After having my first 2 children I ‘needed’ to work. After my 3rd & 4th I started to dread work.
But now I wake up feeling grateful.
I get to be a stay-at-home-mum. I get to take my children to school & pick them up myself. And I get to have quality one-to-one time with my youngest twice a week.
We call these days Mummy Days.
My mummy days are not state funded nor are we rolling in it. I am just very lucky that the Mr can support us all. I once felt a sense of shame that I’d decided to quit work to be a SAHM, not earning to provide for my family. But we don’t go without. Especially not the children.
Soon I realised I am providing for my family just not with finance. They have all the love in the world. They live in a smooth (ish) running home. They rarely see the stresses life can bring. And that’s because I do my 24/7 job to the best of my ability.
This job is the best job I’ve ever had despite the around the clock hours at zero pay. A job I am very grateful I get to do. I know lots who don’t have this choice and whom don’t want it.
But for me, instead of feeling shame I hold my head high.
LOVE my Monday Mummy Days.
Have a similar story? Or have to face the 9-5 ritual? I’d love to hear from you…comment below
Now, I wish I could give you tips at ‘how to potty train successfully in just 4 days’ or ‘have your little munchkin dry day and night in a week’ but unfortunately I can’t!
This is more of a ‘your little one is not the only one who’s still not dry when approaching their 4th birthday’ & ‘please know you’re not the only one desperate to get your pre-schooler out of nappies but is still not ready to go through the process yourself’ kind of post!!
There seems to be so much pressure on mums and dads to get their babies dry when they are still just, well, babies.
Firstly, there is pull-ups, urgh, what is the point in these?
They are just nappies that you pull up instead of stick together. They hindered O’s potty training rather than helped. It went on for ages – the only one out of my four who we put in them and the only one we struggled with to get dry!!!
Secondly, there are new-fangled all singing all dancing potties that are like mini toilets with faces, some of which sing at you…gee whizz (pun fully intended) I’m not sure how I would feel if my toilet started to sing at me when I am trying to poo either to be honest…
Then there is the potty that has an iPad holder!!!
An iPad holder…Why?
No really, why? I’m not going to rant about this here, I’ve already done it once over on my Facebook Page; just scroll down until you find the post with this picture…
Let’s face it the likely hood of your child going to school still in nappies is slim. Maybe they won’t be dry at night but don’t let that worry you; there are plenty of children well in to school age with this secret.
Most schools are fabulous at keeping it a secret too, when on overnight trips and such like. One day they will wake up dry…trust me. I speak from experience. Not personal experience but two family members have been through exactly this.
Too much concern, worry, pressure and stress for what?
So in my opinion potty training is just one of those things in your child’s life that they will do when they are good and ready to, not when you want them to and believe me THEY WILL BE ready when YOU ARE NOT!
P has decided it’s her time.
Despite the fact she will be four this year I mostly definitely was not ready…a week on and I am still not.
I am not prepared, no stock of little knickers, no guarantee of hot weather so she can run around with no clothes on, not enough leggings or trousers to last a days’ wetting nor am I prepared mentally…
P is my last, the baby of the family, I want my baby to stay a baby, they grow too fast. Until now I wasn’t massively concerned when the kids seemed to be growing up too quickly; I had the next one to go through it all again with, to have those special ‘first moments’ but this time there is no next one.
P didn’t like the potty and that big ceramic crater that is the toilet terrified her. However, she said if I got her a special toilet seat (you know that ones that go on top of the actual seat) she would use it.
Having been through similar circs with my older kids I thought “mmm hmm, of course you will…”
Well last week when out doing the weekly food shop P saw one…a pink mouse special toilet seat. Shouting and leaning over the trolley, so much so it's a wonder she didn't topple out, P was adamant she had to have it so at £2 odd I couldn’t refuse.
I could not believe what happened when we got home.
After we unpacked the shopping and did the school run P asked to go to the loo and sure enough with the aid of her new toilet seat she went. And has been dry ever since!
Of course there have been accidents but only a handful. All that nonsense of not being prepared was exactly that; nonsense! P is ready, we don't need to stock up on anything nor do we need the hot weather...I just have to understand my babies are growing and over time are slowly becoming less dependant on me!
We are so proud of her and tell her all the time, re-assurance is key when potty training. A couple of times, following an accident, she has looked up and said "mummy, are you and daddy still happy with me" and "is daddy going to be proud". *melting heart*
At times it can be so frustrating, but they need to know you are incredibly made up with their achievement! Even if it is the 5th accident that day, after weeks of ‘being dry’, when they haven’t attempted to get on the toilet but have just stood there and piddled on the floor instead (something I went through with O).
O made the decision herself that she wanted to be ‘a big girl’ but we introduced pull-ups and I truly believe these hindered her development. They were comfy; she didn’t really feel wet.
She saw them as big girl knickers. Big girl knickers that didn’t make a mess! The type mummy wanted her to wear would and she became scared to go without pull ups.
We got the boys dry whilst on holiday abroad for two weeks staying at my grandparents’ villa during the summer, if ever there was a time it was then. They were free to run around completely naked and the floor is tiled. (hence why after my oldest son I thought this was the only way forward for all children)
No concern of staining carpet or the lingering stench of urine, no getting cold, no worry of running out of pants…perfect!
P’s achievement is 100% child-led. We just have night time to tackle now…
My message to you is simple. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
There isn’t a step-by-step guide with a one-rule-fits-all solution. They will do it in their own time!
Thank you for reading. Please comment with your stories I would love to hear them.
We found ourselves with nothing to do on a bank holiday Monday afternoon, E was out with his friend and would be gone all day but the rest of us were bored and as it was a beautiful sunny day we decided to had to get out the house, so we set off in search for Bluebells. Not just a few that spring up here and there, we wanted to see them in all their glory. To the Bluebell Woods it was.
The children hadn't witnessed Bluebells is their masses before and it had been years since we, mum & dad, had seen the beauty of a bluebell blanket on the forest floor.
What happened next I was not prepared for…
I was left feeling like I'd dusted the cobwebs from my mind. I felt refreshed and happy.
So we arrived at Hinton Ampner, an estate previously owned by Ralph Dutton and now exquisitely looked after by the National Trust, where we knew we would find what we were looking for.
Upon arrival we opted to become members of the National Trust – for a mere £5 odd a month the children and I can visit any National Trust location throughout the year with the added benefit of free parking. We chose a one-parent family ticket as it is me who spends more time with the children due to the hubsters work commitments. However, that aside we were advised that if the Mr comes with us more than we thought he would we can just simply upgrade our membership; still only costing around £9 a month!
So now I have the option to do and experience more with the children during the school holidays without worrying about cost - a no brainer; especially with four munchkins in tow.
Membership organised we made our way to the house. Well, the huge country manor. It was stunning and grand; just as we expected.
On entry to the property the children were handed laminated booklets in which every page had an item they were to search for in the house.
This allowed us grown-ups to read the guide we had been handed and a pay closer attention to the house.
The booklets, which were laid out in the order that you came across the rooms to keep the people traffic going in one direction, were a lovely & thoughtful touch. They kept the children well entertained in what could have been quite a boring experience for them. It also encouraged them to actually take notice of their surroundings and the beauty the house had to offer.
The grounds which this country manor is set in, at a quick glance had just as much going for them as the house did but didn’t stop to fully appreciate its glory as we had already decided we were going to follow the Dutton Estate Walk.
And this is where the magic happened.
Not even five minutes into our walk I had rediscovered the English countryside and it was breath-taking. The views were remarkable.
I was transported back to many a time in my childhood, where I had been on country and forest walks with my Dad. I have fond memories of picking dandelions and blowing away their fluffy heads; I would make out that the amount of puffs it took to fully blow it away would determine what time it was…I also remember getting stuck in the mud once, I got out just fine but my shoe was left behind. Dad had to rescue it for me!
Our children were having fun running, playing, jumping in puddles and so on but I had to get them to stop.
They had to discover this properly, to capture it and fully take it in... We were at the top of a hill, with views out for miles. The rape seed fields were an eye-catchingly bright shade of yellow where the sunlight spectacularly enhanced the its colour. The rolling clouds were atmospheric, going from a dark grey colour over head to fluffy white in the distance and the only noise was that of birds tweeting, trees and bushes rustling and the wind occasionally whirling past your ear and rushing through your hair.
After a few moments admiring what was right on our doorstep, yet passed by every-day without a second thought, we carried on along the trail, with Slim's help…
He did his own bit of orienteering…with the wrong map…which he held upside down, but nevertheless he gave it a good go!
At time it was hilly which was a struggle, especially with a bog standard, city stick buggy in tow.
And then, a small bit of history inevitably repeated itself; Slim got stuck in the mud! He had found tractor tracks with a big puddle in the middle of it. He was so excited he shot over but before he stood in the puddle his little foot squelched in the mud, he stepped down his other foot and the same happened again! He was stuck…much like his mummy some 20 something years ago.
He didn’t lose his wellies like I lost my shoe but it did take almost all my strength to yank him out from the huge suction cup that be the mud, while making sure I don’t get stuck myself.
There was the occasional moan and groan coming from Noo's about how far we were walking but there were tractor tracks, horse shoe prints, fields of sheep and plenty more nature around to keep us entertained. There was even a gigantic tree that looked like it had fallen over - except it hadn't snapped, the massive roots had pulled out the ground. When they kids asked what had happened the best I could come up with was to say that the wind did it...bloody big gust of wind that must have been!!
Eventually we came to the bluebell woods and well... I don't think I have the words. The pictures say it all! Simply enchanting!
By now there were a few more people around, some walking their dogs, some taking pictures and others just quietly taking it in much like us.
The children believe that Bluebells is where fairies live! How romantic is that?!
They were mesmerised by what they saw, just as Sparks and I were…"I can see the whole forest floor is covered in bluebells mummy", “look at all these fairy homes” – this is stuff tears are made of.
Finally after a run down a steep hill, you know the type, where you watch your littluns' legs run away with themselves leaving them unable to slow down or stop so you run to help and find yourself in the same situation, we were back at the fields full of sheep and lambs where we had started.
4 miles and 2.5 hours later we felt refreshed, invigorated and happy. Smiles were beaming.
The children slept well in the car on the way home!!
The fresh air did them some good.
Did us all some good.
You see on the whole, us Brits' tend to love a good holiday abroad to swap our predictably unpredictable weather for more predictable extremes, such as bright white beaches, hot climates or on the contrary blankets of thick fluffy snow in colder climates; in search for experiences of different cultures, iconic landmarks, the northern lights and so on; and don't get me wrong I DO love a holiday abroad for all those reasons and more but in doing this we often miss what is right here in front of us.
The beauty of our own land, culture and all things that make us who we are goes almost unnoticed, taken for granted, unappreciated.
Again all of which I am guilty of.
But what we experienced, my husband, children and I, was truly special and we created some amazing lasting memories right here on our doorstep.
I can't wait for our next visit to a different National Trust location to see what other hidden treasures we can find here at home.
Want to reply or share your similar experiences? I’d love to hear from you 🙂